NEWS: Lufthansa’s new mask policy, how will they police it? why hotel quarantine isn’t feasible & Sri Lanka reopens

Elephant on Sri Lanka

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Lufthansa’s new mask policy

Lufthansa Group airlines which include Swiss and Austrian are introducing a requirement to wear a medical protective mask on their flights to and from Germany. The regulation comes into force on February 1. From that date, passengers will be required to wear either a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask or mask with the KN95/N95 standard during boarding, the flight and when leaving the aircraft. Everyday masks are then no longer permitted.

The airlines of the Lufthansa Group had already introduced a requirement to wear a mouth-nose mask on board their flights in May of last year. By adapting the regulation, the Lufthansa Group is now implementing the resolution passed by the government in Germany on January 19. This means that uniform rules apply along the entire travel chain.

Passengers will be informed by e-mail and on the airlines’ websites and social media channels.

As before, an exemption from the obligation to wear a mouth-nose covering during the flight for medical reasons is only possible if the medical certificate is issued on a form provided by Lufthansa and a negative Covid 19 test is available that is not older than 48 hours at the scheduled start of the journey.

Overall I think Lufthansa is taking the right approach. I like their policy for people travelling without a mask because of exceptions. After all, being exempt doesn’t make you exempt from infecting people! Likewise not allowing people to wear masks that are ineffective is a good thing. However, not all surgical masks are created equal given that you could have bought a surgical mask from anywhere. In terms of the FFP2 mask or mask with the KN95/N95 standard, how they will police this I simply have no idea. I have two masks that are made of cloth, both of which have filters conforming to that standard. However, neither of them say this on the mask itself. So how would they challenge anyone since many masks and filters do not say that they are of a certain standard on the actual mask?


Why total hotel quarantine isn’t feasible for the UK

I’ll start by saying that I am in favour of hotel quarantine, but only for specific countries. I can’t see why we would enforce hotel quarantine at a cost not only to the traveller, but also the taxpayer for someone coming from Australia, New Zealand or Vietnam, where there are virtually no cases. They will already have a PCT test and quarantine for 10 days. At the start last March 2020, I would have supported this, but we are long past that point. I have been criticised for stating an opinion recently, so if you don’t want to hear my opinion on why they shouldn’t implement full hotel quarantine that I suggest you scroll past. 

While Australia has done well to keep COVID out, it comes at a human cost with 30,000 Australians still stranded abroad, many without jobs and dwindling money due to the cap on arrivals. Prices for flights are sky-high to return to Australia. If we try to impose hotel quarantine for every arrival, it will have the same effect with caps in numbers entering the UK and stranding people abroad.

Looking at social media, lots of people seem to think that judging by the crowd shown at Heathrow, thousands of people are ignoring the law and swanning off on holiday. Like most of covid rules, there are always a few people that break them, but the vast majority of travellers are doing it because they have to. Trying to get home after living abroad, visiting dying relatives, trying to sort out a deceased relative’s affairs abroad, legal matters, work that requires you to be physically present. Again, a lot of people think it’s businessmen that are off having jollies on the pretext of meetings. The vast majority of companies have a travel ban except for work that requires someone to be physically present such as infrastructure or medical work. 

If we look at the numbers of arrivals it tells several stories. Firstly in January 2020, before COVID there were 6,099,370 passengers flying through Heathrow during the month. Currently, there are around 8,000 people a day arriving at Heathrow which is about 250,000 for the month. That’s less than 5% of the normal number. However, if we put that in the context of hotel rooms, there are 10,000 hotel rooms available in the areas surrounding Heathrow. Plus you obviously can’t take every single room as local people may need emergency accommodation at some point too. So by day 2, every single room would be full if they were single travellers as many are likely to be. Or best case scenario by day 3 if there were more families/couples. If you are going to lock people in a room for two weeks, obviously it needs to be of a certain standard and the hotel needs to be willing to assist and have security, room service etc. If we take into account all the 3*+ hotel rooms that gives around 70,000 rooms in Greater London, including many of those near Heathrow. So at a push, you may just be able to squeeze in a 10 day stay for everyone if you used every single hotel room and every hotel was suitable/willing to take part. 

Obviously, practically that simply can’t work. So there are two options if we persist with the hotel quarantine option. We close the border except for UK residents or we restrict the numbers. Given that the vast majority of people arriving are already British, it leaves the likelihood that we would strand people abroad.

The costs would be borne by the traveller, but much of the work needed to put this in place would be funded by the government and ultimately the taxpayer. It would not seem a good use of money to hotel quarantine those coming from very low-risk countries. 

Apparently, the cabinet is split on what we should do, with the meeting now scheduled for Tuesday. Hopefully, if they do introduce it, it will be for countries that carry a high risk and the policy will be clear and simple for travellers to use. 


Sri Lanka reopens to tourists

Sri Lanka tea plantation

Tourists will be allowed to stay in 55 designated hotels, which will be off-limits to locals except for staff. You can do some limited sightseeing within the “local bubble” but you are not allowed to interact with locals until after 14 days when you can move about freely. You need a PCR test up to 4 days before entry then two more tests if you stay a week and three more if you stay more than a week. The tests are relatively cheap, but I think a combination of all those factors will put the majority of people off. 

Travellers will also be required to purchase insurance, costing US$12, which covers up to US$50,000 in Covid-19 related medical costs.

Sri Lanka has also confirmed that there will be no dispensation for vaccinated travellers.


11 Comments on "NEWS: Lufthansa’s new mask policy, how will they police it? why hotel quarantine isn’t feasible & Sri Lanka reopens"

  1. Andrew Conder | 26 January 2021 at 6:59 am |

    Hi Michele,
    Air France had a similar policy to Lufthansa’s announcement when I flew them in July. My UK ‘everyday’ mask had valves (although of course there is debate about how effective valves are, seeing as there is a wide variety in manufacturers – not necessarily a debate for here though!) which was fine to wear in Heathrow but I was given a surgical mask when I entered the plane.

    • Interesting. While I am in favour of people being protected as much as possible, this does make me slightly less inclined to fly airlines with these sort of policies. I don’t trust that people’s surgical masks would be up to standard so it’s not necessarily going to make it safer. Plus I would worry about my very expensive high filtration mask (N95) with 5 layers that also has fabric that kills viruses being deemed not acceptable and being forced to wear an inferior paper mask.

  2. A personal fabric mask with slot in filter would not meet the FFP2 standard so you would be denied boarding. The FFP2 standard includes fit to the face and air leakage so fabric masks with slot in filters are not FFP2 equivalent as air can flow round the filter and the straps often are ear loops where FFP2 needs a full head band. The medical mask rule isn’t so good as they are often not actual IIR masks in shops and they can be far worse than a decent 3 layer fabric mask

    • Thanks Jon. The other one I have had n95 filters in the fabric (permanent) so not sure how that would work.

  3. Tow comments.

    1. I understand that in New Zealand you have to book your self isolation hotel BEFORE you are allowed to book your flight or holiday or Biz travel abroad. It would take time to set up but seems a sensible way or managing the self isolation policy.

    2. Everyone focus’s on air travel but thousands of none freight Pax travel to UK through ports like Dunkirk, Calais, Rotterdam etc in cars. They need to be part of the compulsory self isolation project as well because people fly from South America to Spain then drive to to try to avoid the self isolation even though they are supposed to as they are coming from France but no one checks. The Gov needs to address this issue.

  4. I am with you on the hotel isolation, Michele. Something tells me a lot of the people crying for the country to be closed off to the world like AU/NZ would not be so keen once they realised it also impacts THEIR holiday to Spain this summer!

    • Thanks Pete. I think also people want something to blame, a way out of the mess. But the current situation was not caused by travel bit by a home grown variant sadly. We can shut the borders but it would still take around 6 months or longer with periodic strict lockdowns to get rid of Covid. Not sure people understand that.

  5. I accept your comments on hotel availability around LHR but I feel it will be less of a problem than you think. Would anyone of sane mind travel knowing that they would have to isolate at their own cost for 10 or 14 days? This would get rid of all the tourists instantly.

    • I think this is part of the problem – people assuming that the 8000 people arriving each day are tourists. They are not. A few may be breaking the law but the vast majority are travelling because they have to. There are many many reasons why people travel apart from a holiday. Work, family emergency, returning home etc. We have already got rid of all tourists. We have 10 days quarantine already. We have gone from 6 million people through Heathrow to 250,000 per month. Those 250,000 are mainly not tourists.

      • I can pretty much guarantee there are no tourists coming here (why on earth would you do that?!) and, realistically, not many people going away on holiday either – because there is nowhere to go that is worth it…! Fine, a handful of Caribbean islands and Dubai – but that is about it! Everywhere else is closed off to Britons, locked down or both!

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